Congee is rice cooked in a lot of water until it has a mushy porridge type consistency, and then topped with different spices, herbs, vegetables or meat.
There are several variations of congee and its found all over Asia, especially east and south Asia. It has thousands of years of history in China, and was first cooked there with millet, later substituted with rice.
The word congee comes from the Tamil word kanji, a very popular food among the ancient Tamil people. It’s known by various names all over Asia but most often called congee through a Western influence, maybe through the Portuguese (its known as, and popular in Portugal, as canja).
Modern rice cookers even have a congee setting, allowing it to be cooked overnight. Any type of rice may be used, depending on what is available. It is mainly given to sick people as it is nutritious and digests easily.
In Tamil Nadu, we make it with rice and also a variety of millets, or broken wheat or maize. In Kerala it is eaten with green lentils and a chutney on the side. Every state has a different interpretation and cooking method of this traditional food. In this particular post, I’m going to talk about spicy coconut milk congee. Congee that is cooked with milk is known as Palkanji (pal means milk), and was served in royal households.
This is a wonderful comfort food, and great for those days when you’re in need of some TLC and a hug. 🙂
Spicy Coconut Milk Congee
For the congee:
- 1 cup rice
- 1/2 cup green lentils
- 2 tsp fenugreek seeds (optional)
- 2 cups coconut milk
- Salt, to taste
- 2 1/2 cups water
In a stock pot, add the water, rice, fenugreek seeds, salt and lentils. Cover and cook until rice is soft and can easily be squished between your fingers.
Remove from the stove and when slightly cooled, add the coconut milk and mix through.
For the spicy chutney:
- 1 cup desiccated coconut
- 4 dried red chillies, or about 1 tbsp of red chilli flakes
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 6-7 curry leaves
- 1/4 cup water
- Salt, to taste
I like to dry roast the coconut, chillies, garlic and curry leaves before grinding, but the roasting is optional. Grind all the ingredients together for the chutney with the water – watch the quantity of water, add only as much as you need to achieve a rough grind consistency.
Now spoon some of that gorgeous rice into a bowl, and top with a dollop of the chutney. Sigh. So good.